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Canucks Post Game: Tan Man can, Green sees gold, Markstrom the saviour, bouquets for Boucher – The Province

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Antoine Roussel reacts after scoring opening goal Thursday.

Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA TODAY Sports

Points to ponder as the Canucks not only talked the talk, they walked to walk to open a 3-1 lead before squandering a 4-3 edge. Chris Tanev won it in overtime as the Canucks collected a confidence-building 5-4 decision Thursday over the red-hot Golden Knights at Rogers Arena:

YES, THE TAN MAN CAN:“I didn’t think it (pass) was going to get to me and ended up on my stick and I went around Fleury’ 

Hands up. Who had Chris Tanev in the overtime-goal pool? Nobody? Thought so.

Tanev does so much for the Canucks on a nightly basis — he led the club with three blocked shots Thursday and is third in the NHL with 83 blocks — and the fact he found a way to beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the overtime winner for his second goal of the season was beyond poetic justice.

His effort was better than his celebration and judging by the post-game reaction in the room, the decisive goal couldn’t have gone to a better guy.

I’m super happy for Taney,” said Jacob Markstrom, whose late-game blocker save off Paul Stastny could have been the headline. “He’s been playing good and he’s a guy who never complains and always does more than expected.”

“That was pretty,” added Tanner Pearson. “I’m not so sure about his celebration, but the goal was pretty.”

As for the winner, Tanev seemed somewhat surprised that the pass actually got to him and he somehow got it by Fleury.

“I just passed it to Bo (Horvat) and went to the net and he made a really great pass,” started Tanev. “I didn’t think it was going to get to me and ended up on my stick and I went around Fleury and it ended up going in.

“We’ve been struggling lately and it’s been tough to find wins and it’s big. Hopefully, we can get on a roll. They took it to us badly in Las Vegas (6-3 loss Sunday) and it’s huge to get a win against a team that you know is going to be there at the end of the season.”

GREEN SEES GOLD:This was a little bit of a hurdle against that team. They’ve had their way with us. We stood tall’

This how the Canucks coach started his post-game press conference:

“Good effort. We had a lot of guys play well and a hell of a win against a really good team. I didn’t feel like we were under siege at all and I loved the way we started the game.

“You get up on a team like that by a couple of goals and you know they’re still going to get their chances. But it wasn’t like we were going to sit back and defend. We had the lull in the second period and I liked how we got our composure back.”

He could have gone on an on because after three-straight losses and four in the last five games, a hockey-mad market was mad. Who was to blame? The players, the coach, the general manager.

But on a night where Elias Pettersson not only scored two goals but looked more than comfortable in a big boys’ game — he also rang another shot off the crossbar — there was a lot to take from the game. The Canucks didn’t get run out of their building when the Golden Knights cranked up the hitting and poking and prodding and jabbing.

You want a taste of what it could be like if the Canucks make the postseason? Well, you got it Thursday. Green even called a time-out after the Golden Knights rallied for two quick second-period goals to make it 3-3.

“It was a chance for our team to take a breath and the confidence level of our team is probably not as high as it has been,” admitted Green. “I maybe sensed we were fragile for a few seconds after they tied it. It happened fast. I just wanted us to re-focus and it (win) takes a little pressure off them.

“It also justifies that this was a little bit of a hurdle for us against that team. They’ve had their way with us. And when they crank it up physically, it can go one of two ways — either you crumble and back off or stand tall — and I thought we stood tall. Down the road when we start playing playoff games, it’s going to be heavy like that.”

MARKSTROM’S GAME-SAVER:You want to have an impact. You want to help and that was my time to step up’

The Canucks weren’t going to totally deny a club on an 8-2-1 roll heading into Thursday’s clash. They knew it. Jacob Markstrom knew it.

He kept his poise early in the game when the Golden Knights pressed for the equalizer by staying square and calm. He denied Chandler Stephenson on a short-handed opportunity before Pearson struck to make it 2-1 on the power play. There was that backhander chance in tight in tight by Mark Stone.

Markstrom had little chance on the goals that beat him and gave the Canucks a chance to win — especially when he robbed Stastny with a blocker save on a power play late in regulation and had 38 saves before overtime.

“The puck kind of came out back side and it was more of a desperation save and I just tried to get over to the post as quick as possible,” said Markstrom. “That was a timely save. You want to have an impact. You want to help the guys and that was my time to step up.

“We just needed a win and I didn’t care how it looked. They don’t dump a lot of pucks in. They cycle and lot and they’re all about possession — a little bit of European-style hockey. You see the Russian and Swedes do that stuff and they don’t like to give away the pucks when they have it.”

KILLING THEM SOFTLY:‘If you’re slipping, you kind of let them dictate the PP instead of you dictating the PK’

There’s no glamour in penalty killing.

Do it right and nobody really notices because it doesn’t show in individual statistics — unless you’re taking the draws — and doing it wrong often puts you in the highlight reel for the wrong reason.

Jay Beagle has made a career of being a force in the face-off circle, being good in shutdown match-ups and a pain to play against on the power play. And when the penalty kill goes from top-10 status to 16th and just 24h at home, it’s going to raise eyebrows.

To his credit, Beagle knows how to keep it light in the room and even in warm-ups and owns it when it’s a mea culpa.

The Montreal Canadiens scored on their two power-play chances Tuesday to turn a 1-1 struggle into a 3-1 cushion. The Vegas Golden Knights scored on two of their four chances Sunday in a 6-3 triumph and they went 0-for-1 on Thursday because the Canucks were disciplined in a game that featured 53 hits.

Penalty kill success isn’t rocket science. It’s predicated on push and structure and health.

At one point this season, prime kill guys Beagle, Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte were all sidelined by ailments, It pressed Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Loui Eriksson into those roles with mixed results. Beagle is at his best with Tim Schaller, who was re-inserted into the lineup Thursday in place of the injured Sutter.

So, what’s missing?

“It’s that urgency and compete,” said Beagle. “Even that game (Tuesday), the guy (Tomas Tatar) slips in behind me and I wasn’t urgent enough on my part. They get the 2-1 goal (PP) and the next one (PP) and we lose because we didn’t get the job done on the PK.

“Familiarity is huge. It makes the job that much easier because you know exactly what he (PK partner) is going to do before he does it. But when guys get hurt, there are switch-ups and changes and you have to still learn to get the job done — no matter what.

“There lots of talk. I like killing with Motte, too, because he’s very smart and has a great stick. It’s just a matter now of knowing his tendencies and making sure that we’re talking a lot and reading off each other. And sometimes, that takes a little bit of time to come, too.”

Beagle is usually a beast in defensive-zone draws. He’s seventh overall with a 57.9 per cent success rate and has won 58 of 101 PK assignments, even though he has to take draws on his weak side because the PK gets to dictate O-zone face-offs.

“They’re so key because if you’re slipping, you kind of let them dictate the PP instead of you dictating the PK,” added Beagle. “Even if we don’t clear, they’re fighting to get the puck back.”

BOUCHER’S RECORD BLAST:I’ve seen him make some crazy plays and win games. He can score in a lot of ways’

Reid Boucher isn’t the faster skater, but he has a quick grip on NHL reality.

The Utica Comets winger set a franchise record for career goals Wednesday with his 76th in 125 AHL games during a 4-3 win at Belleville. He passed Darren Archibald, who managed 75 in 304 games.

Boucher not only has 20 goals in his first 24 outings this season — the left-winger leads the league in that category and his 34 points are tied for the best output — but his ability to understand the roster rationale and recall pecking order with the parent club, while leading by example in the minors is a major accomplishment.

“I take everything in practices seriously when it comes to shooting the puck and trying to score in practice and that’s been part of my success for the last couple of years,” said Boucher. “I don’t think it’s a matter of staying positive, it’s controlling what I can control. I can’t control being called up or sent down, but I can control how hard I work.”

His roster fate was cemented on Day 1 of training camp at Victoria. The arrival of wingers J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland through offseason acquisitions only added to a glut of forwards. A leaner and driven Boucher was there to push the pace and push those who had been pencilled into a particular place. 

He did just that.

And being on his fourth-consecutive one-year contract — this one pays US$750,000 at the NHL level and $450,000 in the AHL — is as much about handling his attitude as his game.

“He’s a good pro,” said Green. “He’s a big part of their team and a good leader, too, and that’s one thing that goes unnoticed.  And when you talk about dragging them into the fight, he’s a guy with who it’s not just about goals with him — every day he plays hard and will fight once in a while.

“I have a lot of respect for what he’s done down there.”

It’s the shot that sets Boucher apart.

A quick, hard and accurate release allowed the 26-year-old Lansing, Mich. native to score 20 goals in 133 career NHL games with New Jersey, Nashville and Vancouver.

He uses an STX composite stick that has a 75 flex rate, which players have called a “noodle.” Brock Boeser made his mark as a rookie with a 90 flex because he has the strength and skill to get a lot on his shot and pick corners. What’s the deal with Boucher’s low-flex stick?

“It lets me shoot the same with less effort,” he said. “Shoot hard without loading the stick as much and it comes off (the blade) quicker.”

Jalen Chatfield is in his third season with the Comets and has witnessed Boucher’s impact. The recalled derenceman lauded Boucher’s caring, work ethic and leadership.

“He was really great for me my first year down there,” said the 23-year-old Chatfield. “He a big part every night and when he’s out, you can see it in our power play. He’s one of the best — if not the best — scorers in the AHL.

“I’ve seen him make some crazy plays and win games for us. He can score in a lot of ways. If teams let him slip away, he moves around and reacts with that shot — he’s always a threat.”

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool

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Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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